It seems like the last couple of weeks my wife and I have spent a lot of time processing tomatoes. We have made two batches of Homemade Tomato Ketchup, a batch each of Freezer Tomato Sauce and unseasoned Vitamix Tomato Sauce, plus a batch of Freezer Marinara Sauce from a recipe in my well-worn copy of The Victory Garden Cookbook. Actually my wife made one batch of ketchup and I made the rest of the things, and I appreciate her help because making the ketchup is a marathon event. It is made easier by processing the cored tomatoes skin and all in the Vitamix blender, which saves a bit of time up front. But then it still takes several hours to cook it down to the right consistency.
I used a mix of tomatoes for the above processing, including paste tomatoes like Viva Italia, Health Kick, Rio Grande, Big Mama, Golden Rave and Quadro. I also used my favorite Juliet, plus a few of the smaller slicers like Early Girl and Eva’s Purple Ball. For the unseasoned sauce I’ll really use any tomato I have, including cherry, grape and plum types. The smaller ones are nice because you don’t even have to core them, just rinse and throw them in the blender.
We’ve also gotten our first taste of the two Artisan Tomatoes I’m growing this year, Blush and Green Tiger. Both these o/p varieties are from the Tiger line, and they are great tasting as well as colorful. They also have the Bumble Bee series of cherry tomatoes which I have tasted but not grown. The size is hard to judge in the above photo but they are slightly larger than Juliet. I can see me trying more of the Artisan line in the years to come.
A newcomer here is the o/p Mexico Midget red cherry tomato. This prolific variety has given us lots of 1/2-3/4″ deep red tomatoes so far, many of which I snack on while outside working in the garden. Some of them do make it in the house, like the ones in the above photo. They have a nice flavor, sweet but not too sweet, and are great for salads.
The Mexico Midget tomatoes joined Sun Sugar and Black Cherry in a White Bean Caprese Salad I made one day for lunch. The tomatoes had the starring role, along with Runner Cannellini beans, fresh Mozzerella cheese and Profuma di Genova basil. Happy Acres doesn’t have quite the ambiance of the Piazza Umberto on Capri, but the salad was tasty anyway.
Some of the peppers are starting to ripen here. That’s a trio of Jimmy Nardello in the above photo, joined by a Tolli’s Sweet Italian on the left. I grew Tolli’s for the first time last year, and I liked the peppers well enough to give it another go this year. They have a little thicker wall than the Jimmy Nardello peppers, and are almost as sweet when cooked. So far they look to be productive here as well. The Tolli’s pepper went into a 3 Bean Salad my wife made on Saturday. Actually it wound up being a 2 bean salad, since she used Runner Cannellini and Red Nightfall beans to make it.
Something else that ripened is another of the Ambrosia melons. So far none of the melons this year have been as sweet as usual, which could be due to getting a lot of rain as they were sizing up. At any rate, the Ambrosia is still as sweet as anything we could buy at a farmer’s market, and much sweeter than what we see at the grocery (which usually have very little flavor).
Once again I am amazed at what a difference a year can make when you are growing your own food. Last year we had lots and lots of pole beans, but very few eggplants. The flea beetles got to the eggplant early on, and they never seemed to get over it. This year I did a better job of spraying for the beetles, and as a result the plants look great and are fruiting nicely. And the pole beans are giving us almost nothing this year! I keep hoping the beans will put out some new blooms when the temps moderate a bit. That’s the dark purple Nadia eggplant and the purple and white Calliope in the above photo.
We’ve been grilling a lot of the eggplant. I sliced up one the big purple Nadia and grilled it last week, with a little salt and homemade paprika for seasoning. I also grilled a sandwich that day on marbled rye bread topped with kohlrabi kraut, Swiss cheese and prosciutto ham. I believe this is similar to what Michelle is calling a Carmel Valley Reuben, and I have to say it was delicious. The dark coloring in the bread comes from cocoa added to the dough. The marbled bread was pretty but it wasn’t any better tasting than the recipes I usually make. The same dough did make some tasty marbled rye rolls.
Most of the summer squash are done for now, giving in to stem rot and the squash bugs. The vining heirloom Tatume gave us three more nice sized fruit last week. Those vines are still going so we might see more before the end of them.
I harvested all of the winter squash Gold Nugget. This variety matures early, and is a dependable producer for me year after year. The squash are just the right size for cutting in half and baking. That’s right at 12 pounds of them in the above photo.
I started drying mints and herbs for tea last week. I generally dry spearmint, peppermint, orange mint, chocolate mint and lemon verbena. I’ve tried drying lemongrass, but I think it loses most of its flavor, so I pot up a plant of it to keep us supplied during the winter. The dehydrator stays busy this time of year, as I also dry calendula which pretty much blooms here non-stop all summer long.
And speaking of lemongrass, those stalks I rooted and planted behind the greenhouse in May are now four foot tall clumps. It’s such an easy and inexpensive way to grow lemongrass. I spent about $1 for the stalks, and now I have all the lemongrass I want.
Right next to the lemongrass is the Mexico Midget tomato plant. Or the plants, since I set two plants per over-sized cage. There’s no splitting or cracking, and I will be growing this prolific variety again.
That’s a look at what’s happening here in late July. To see what other gardeners are harvesting and cooking up, visit Daphne’s Dandelions where Daphne hosts Harvest Mondays.
Those are beautiful squash and eggplant. I kept my eggplant covered until they started (although the flowers are self-pollinating) to give them a chance to gain some size before teh flea beetle attacks. So far, that has worked. The Mexico Midget is interesting, wonder how it is related to Matt’s Wild Cherry, another wild tomato from Mexico. Seems to have brighter red fruit than Matt’s, which has self-seeded all over the garden.
I’ve grown Matt’s Wild Cherry too, and I believe the Mexico Midget is a tad larger and a bit darker. I knew it reminded me of another tomato, and now you have solved the mystery!
What a fantastic harvest of tomatoes you have! I’m envious of you making sauce already. I actually don’t think I’ll get enough tomatoes to make sauce this year from my own garden so I might as well go buy some now and get on with it. That bean salad looks delicious! You sure do eat well …
I too am intrigued by your Mexico Midget tomato, such vibrant color, may try it next year if I locate the seeds. My lemongrasses are doing well also, they look great among my annuals, perennials and in containers, so easy to grow.
Flea beetles have been an issue here in the PNW as well. I’m told it’s because we didn’t get a hard enough freeze.
Wow, you are so far a head of me this year! We are still weeks away from having that kind of tomato harvest! We had a ton of rain in May and it delayed my plantings this year. I love how you are always experimenting with different tomatoes! I keep saying that I need to branch out a bit!
Always such a beautiful harvest from your gardens. My Jimmy Nardello (2nd year growing these) are just now turning reddish.
Here’s a question for you: how to rid my soil of the tomato blight. If I forego planting tomatoes next year will that help?
I am definitely not an expert on blight. I would think most soil borne diseases would persist more than a year. Growing in containers with disease free potting soil should work though. If the disease is spread by air then I don’t know what you do.
You are so far ahead of me; it looks like your tomato season is in full gear! It will be at least a couple of weeks before I see that, if I see it at all – our tomato plants seem to be growing at a much slower pace this year, so I’m having my doubts. I did just see the first itty bitty eggplant on my plants, so that is super exciting – it took so long for them to finally flower that I was getting nervous about those as well.
Such lovely tomatoes, and that eggplant…so glossy. Wow, those winter squash are early. I’d like to try them, but I suppose they aren’t C. moschata, which is all I dare grow.
No, they are C. maxima. Fortunately I have not had problems with wilt or SVB with this variety, though I had lost them due to wind/mechanical damage.
Wow, you have been busy! That’s a lot of tomatoes to get through. The Spike tomato that I’m trying this year was developed by the folks who breed the Artisan line. I may have to give one of those a try next year.
Those Reuben sandwiches certainly are adaptable, I think your version should be called the Happy Acres Reuben. I may have to try growing kohlrabi again just to try your kraut.
I’m wondering what you use dried calendula for?
The calendula gets used in soaps and to make infused oil for lotions. I have not tried it in any culinary dishes, though I know it can be used in salads or soups.
I want to try the Spike next year, perhaps along with another of their creations. A friend grew many of the Bumble Bee and Tiger line last year for sale at farmers markets and let me taste test them. It was hard to pick just one but I decided on Blush as my favorite and grew it this year. Now I want to try more!
I wish I were drying mints. I find I use the Mojito mint most (which is a form of spearmint) and don’t use the peppermints as much. I tend to just use them for tea, but haven’t been into tea in the last year. Whereas the other mint I use to cook with all the time. I have three pots and am thinking I need to rip one of the peppermints out and replace it.
The Ambrosia melon looks mouth-watering. Reminds me that I need to stop by the farmstand and see if any Vincennes melons are available.
So many beautiful and colorful tomatoes. You must be so busy preserving all this garden goodness. Oh, I can’t wait to begin making tomato sauce this year especially since late blight cut my harvest short last year. I also need to remember Gold Nugget squash especially since it matures early.
You and your wife inspire me each week with all of the processing/canning/cooking that you do. I am in love with your caprese salad! An dI am also suffering from melon envy. Your look amazing, even with all of that rain you have had this year. I am busy cheering on short-season watermelon at my place. Hopefully I will have a victorious photo to share on harvest monday.
What great harvests you had this week! I hadn’t heard of tatume squash. Not sure I have enough room, but at just 68 days it might mature in our short season. Your Gold Nugget squash are beautiful too! I’m trying those this year…I have one that is getting big so far. Hoping for lots more!
You’re getting such great summer vegetables. I’m going to try your technique for making tomato sauce, it’ll make the processing go a lot faster.